Header Ads

Moominvalley [Series One]

Moominvalley is the latest in a long line of adaptations of the original tales of Finnish author Tove Jansson. Since the first stories were published in the later half of the 1940s, they have been adapted into series and films in various countries in hand-drawn, stop-motion and CG animated forms. The new series is a UK/Finnish co-production from Sky One and YLE, produced by Gutsy Animation. Following a successful crowdfunding campaign to produce the pilot, the first series comprises 13 episodes.

Aardman veteran Steve Box (Wallace and Gromit: Curse Of The Were-Rabbit) directs the series, also acting as head writer alongside duo Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler (Danger Mouse, Robbie The Reindeer, Shaun The Sheep).

For anyone completely new to the series, the Moomins are a family of friendly, fictional, creatures who resemble fuzzy white hippos. Moomintroll (or simply Moomin) lives with his parents, Moominmamma and Moominpappa the idyllic valley of the title, where life is full of adventure. He's joined by his girlfriend Snorkmaiden, best friend Snufkin, mischievous Little My and many other memorable characters.

Any fresh adaptation of a series as beloved as this has a lot to live up to. Different generations have their own favorite version. Can this new version pull off the tricky feat of appealing both to fans of old and a new audience? In short- yes it can.

These first episodes tell stories that will be familiar to readers of the original stories or previous adaptations such as the '90s anime version shown on the BBC and Boomerang. Stories such as the arrival of Little My, Moomin's befriending of an adorable tiny dragon or the flooding of the valley.

In theory, it's hard to go wrong with these tried and tested stories, but it would be so easy to get it wrong. The distinctive tone of the Moomins is captured here just perfectly, and they make it look effortless- but in reality, it's anything but.

At the same time, the series is able to subtly update elements here and there, whilst never losing the spirit of the source material. Through more cinematic moments, or via the occasional affectionate joke riffing on one of the conventions of the characters, never for a single moment does it not feel like Moomin.

The most obvious way that this version is updated is in the animation itself. This is not only the first Moomin adap to employ 3D CG, but it is also undoubtedly the best looking so far. Gutsy use an innovative combination of 3D animation and hand-drawn elements to beautiful effect. Most notably, the characters are rendered in CG (perfectly capturing the original designs) whist backgrounds are produced in a beautiful painterly style. The combined result is nothing short of gorgeous.

This is all bought to life in conjunction with an excellent voice cast. The English version assembled an enviable line-up of British talent, anchored by Taron Egerton, who brings the requisite heart and adventurous spirit to Moomintroll.  Rosamund Pike channels the sweetness of Moominmamma and a perfectly cast Matt Berry voices Moominpappa's bluster and bravado. The main cast is ably supported by excellent performances by Akiya Henry, Katie Leung, Warwick Davies, with the likes of Kate Winslet, Matt Lucas and most memorably Richard Ayoade popping up for guest roles.

One element that might irk traditionalists is the use of contemporary music on the soundtrack. I would argue however that it's used sparingly and the artists and tracks selected feels in perfectly in keeping with the show's feel. The theme music is beautiful too.

Director Steve Box's past working at Aardman clearly informs much of his work here. Part of the appeal of Moomin's world has always been the slightly creepy, sinister elements such as the Groke or the Hattifattners. There's a similarity to how these elements are handled here as the horror/ thriller influences are employed in Curse Of The Wererabbit.

There's more than a touch of Aardman in how well Moominvalley is able to give personality to characters who don't speak, too.

If there are any complaints to be made, with each 22-minute episode telling a complete story, some of the most iconic moments of the stories can feel just a little bit rushed. It's a very different approach to the serialized story of the anime version, but that's not to say it's necessarily worse.

Moominvalley is a wonderful adaptation of the beloved stories that is welcoming both to fans and newcomers and will appeal to audiences of all ages. It's beautifully made, well written and the love and care poured into every frame is clear to see. Here's hoping our return trip to Moominvalley will be sooner rather than later.

Moominvalley is available on Blu-Ray, and DVD in the UK Now

  FORMAT: Series AVAILABLE ON: Blu-Ray/ DVD/ Digital [UK]  FROM: DAZZLER MEDIA RATING: U  RUNNING TIME : 13 x 22 minutes

IN A NUTSHELL: A magical and masterful adaptation of Tove Jansson's enchanting stories that may just be the best yet.